The Face of Love

That The Face of Love lands in theaters more or less simultaneously with a new movie version of Dostoyevsky’s The Double, and also with a movie version of José Saramago’s The Double, just goes to show how, for the narrative arts, the doppelgänger is a gift that keeps on giving. In this case, we’re presented with Annette Bening as a widow who after years of grief discovers a dead — or, well, living — ringer for her late husband (both men are played by Ed Harris), then pursues and becomes romantically involved with him. It’s probably a red flag that her vocation involves staging houses with posters of Tarkovsky’s Nostalghia and Hitchcock’s Vertigo, but of course the people most likely to notice — her recently fledged daughter (Jess Weixler) and her lingering next-door neighbor (Robin Williams) — have romantic woes of their own. There is also the potential plot complication of the double’s ex-wife (Amy Brenneman). Co-writing with Matthew McDuffie, director Arie Posin manages it all with commendable sensitivity, less as supernatural freakout than as signpost of the frontier between self-deceit and social taboo. Or maybe it’s the dark symbiosis between grief and love, two emotions some of us are prone to hide out and wallow in, building up the fear (sometimes the thrill) of being caught. Anyway, it’s a fine showpiece for good actors who also are mature adults. Harris makes the most of his sincerity, and Bening brings a mastery of nuance; it’s amazing how much she can convey with just a wordless grin.